Honda’s boss Masashi Yamamoto is delighted for the Japanese manufacturer to work with both the Red Bull-backed outfits from the 2019 Formula 1 season, while drawing extra motivation from Red Bull’s race-winning chassis.
The new partnership between the senior Red Bull Racing outfit and Honda was announced early on Tuesday ahead of the French Grand Prix weekend. The Japanese manufacturer will now supply its unit to both Red Bull and Toro Rosso from 2019.
It also meant the end of a 12-years relationship between Red Bull and Renault, with the French manufacturer only to provide McLaren alongside using them for its own factory squad from next season onward.
Honda is particularly interested to work around Red Bull’s race-winning chassis and get back to the winning ways which it has been waiting ever since it returned to F1 in 2015. “It is one of the top teams,” said Yamamoto on Red Bull.
“It has won several championships and this year too it has already won some races. In addition, it is also obvious that they have a very good chassis and this means we’ll have better chances of winning races.
“This gives further motivation to all the members of Honda, but at the same time, it is a huge pressure and responsibility for us. However, it is Honda’s nature to always aspire to a very high target, and I think that’s what makes Honda Honda.
“As a starting point, we do not want to see Red Bull Racing’s performance drop below its current level. But our target is to go further and do better than they are doing at the moment,” he added.
The talks to supply Red Bull as well along with Toro Rosso was almost a done deal in Canada with the final confirmation coming on Tuesday. The intention for Honda remains the same, to win grand prixs with the teams it is competing in F1.
And so, Yamamoto stressed that parity will be maintained from the Japanese manufacturer’s side to both the teams. “This year, I have frequently met Dr. Marko to discuss Toro Rosso-related issues and there were casual conversations like ‘Let’s get involved with Red Bull Racing someday’,” he said.
“The biggest pleasure I felt in the conversation is that they were focusing so much on winning and the core of the topic was always ‘How we can win together?’. This is also the case with Toro Rosso and both of them are real racing teams.
“I think now all other teams have already started the development for 2019 so we will also have to start work on the matching of the chassis and the power unit with the team. Though we have more time compared to last year’s Toro Rosso situation, it is still a relatively shorter timeframe than everyone else.
“So we have to make sure we have good communication in order to have smooth development together. We’ll supply the same specification PU to both Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
“From a manufacturer’s point of view, it doesn’t make sense to identify either team as either works or customer as current regulations oblige us to supply the same power unit to all our teams.
“In that sense, this contract puts the three parties into an equal position. Just as was the case with Toro Rosso, we felt a sincere respect from Red Bull throughout the conversation that led to this contract.
“We appreciate them showing us such an attitude even after seeing our difficult time over the previous three years in F1. Though we are not going into further details of the contract than shown in the press release, I should say the condition is very fair for both parties.
“We feel that we will have to live up to their high expectations, but can see their respect for us, and we will put everything we have into the development for next season,” he explained.
One good thing about the extended relationship with Red Bull is the closeness of Honda’s European factory to Red Bull’s Milton Keynes facility – thereby making it much more a ‘face-to-face’ communication matter.
“When we returned to F1 in 2015, it was always our intention to be running two teams from this year, therefore we have the organisational structure to deal with that,” said Yamamoto.
“In addition, as Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso are in the same family, we are able to have a simpler organisation on the Honda side. But we still have some more room for improvement in terms of the organisation and personnel and we will work on this very soon with the two teams.
“Cleary it is an advantage to have factories close to one another. Though there are plenty of technologies nowadays like TV conference and we are fully utilising them, I believe face-to-face communication is still very important as it can still make a very big difference.”
Even though Red Bull is a senior team, Honda reiterated that its relation with Toro Rosso will continue as the same in 2018 and beyond. While acknowledging the progress made with the fourth place in Bahrain, Yamamoto admitted that more work is to be done.
“There won’t be a change in the current relationship between Honda and Toro Rosso,” he said. “But we expect mutual transaction between the teams and Honda within the regulations, so that we need to make sure we maximise that advantage in order to get good synergy together.
“It was a great result finishing fourth in the second round, but there were some ups and downs after that. It is a very interesting season for fans, as well as those of us who work in the sport, because it seems that the result of the midfield runners varies depending on the car set-up and the characteristics of the tracks.
“We are now working on development to get further improvements to challenge for even better results for the rest of this season.” The team sits seventh in the standings with 19 points – same as Haas after seven races.